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Station 64 officially opened for service on Oct. 2 and should withstand a major earthquake, allowing TVF&R to cover the area north of Highway 26.



HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Captain Brooks Frank, firefighter Galen Hunt, firefighter Matt Cox and Engineer Chris Tompkins pose in front of Engine 64 at the remodeled Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Station 64.For the crew at Fire Station 64 north of Hillsboro, Monday was like move-in day for a new house.

The common area was almost bare save for the collection of office chairs against one wall. A large television sat against the wall, the floor waiting for couches packed away in moving trucks on the ground level. The place even smelled of new carpet.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's newly-renovated fire station, located at 3355 N.W. 185th Ave., in Rock Creek, officially came online Monday afternoon, the result of a $3.4 million renovation on the aging firehouse, which was built in 1973.

On Monday, firefighters were helping movers bring boxes, exercise equipment — there's a gym downstairs — and other household goods into the firehouse.

"We've been chomping at the bit," said TVF&R Captain Brooks Frank. "I swear, if they would have let us, we would have been at the doors and windows begging to come in. It's so nice to get settled in."

Located a stone's throw from Highway 26, the firehouse's exterior is sleek and grey with large windows to the south and accents of wood -- but the heart of the station's renovation lies inside the walls of the building.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Shawn Peterson and Brady Watcherson, TVF&R facilities maintenance employees, work on installing a special washing machine to clean the firefirghter turnouts at the remodeled Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Station 64.The newly rebuilt fire station follows a trend in disaster preparedness: seismic upgrades and thought-out placement to avoid an area cut off from emergency services in the event of a major earthquake. Should the "big one" hit the Portland area, Station 64 is far more likely to stay in service than prior to the renovation work, according to TVF&R officials.

In fact, Station 64 could be one of few firehouses able to serve much of northern Washington County, should disaster strike.

"We've got a huge area to cover if something like that happens since we're not counting on the overpasses being there."

Hillsboro's five fire stations are located south of Highway 26. Frank said that should the need arise, Station 64 could respond to calls as far west as North Plains.

"We're the only station on the north side that will be able to go out and evaluate anything," he said.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Engineeer Chris Tompkins, firefighter Matt Cox and firefighter Galen Cox begin to raise the flag at the remodeled Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Station 64.The renovations have brought reinforced walls and a new roof to the building, making the firehouse less likely to collapse on staff and equipment, Frank said. The old tower for drying hoses is gone, due to safety concerns. The site has new storm drainage, a new electrical layout and a system that automatically shuts off the gas in the event of an earthquake.

"Everything we tell the public to go out do to their houses, we are now taking the steps at the station to where it does it automatically where, if we're out and about, now we don't have to worry about that anymore," Frank said.

When station 64 was built, Frank said, it was designed for a crew of two or three. It had a single bunkhouse, and what amounted to a residential bathroom was cordoned off for use by female firefighters as a locker room. Now, the firehouse runs a four-person crew. The new firehouse has separate rooms for each crew member and a full locker room for the male and female crew members.

The station has been updated with greener technology as well. The lights are all LED, saving energy and allowing the department to save money in the long run despite higher up-front costs.

Two of TVF&R's newer buildings, Station 70 in Raleigh Hills and Station 65 in Beaverton, cost more per square foot. Station 70, built in 2015, cost $1.83 million to convert an existing building into a micro-firehouse. Station 65, built in 2012, cost $4.2 million for a full-size fire station.

"We get the luxury of a brand new space for well under half the cost to build a new station these days," Frank said. "…We've got all those nice amenities."

About $850,000 of Station 64's price tag came by way of a state grant for seismic improvements, according to TVF&R spokesperson Kim Haughn.

Frank also said the station was re-designed to improve how quickly a crew could get from the common area to the bay when responding to a call. Standard is 90 seconds, and simple features like straight hallways and fewer doors can shave precious seconds.

"As you know driving anywhere nowadays … there are times where it's a 40-minute drive just to get down to (West Baseline Road) if we're not going lights and sirens," he said. "What we can control is how fast we get out. We've started designing our stations thinking, 'Okay, what can we do to facilitate that happening?'"

Haughn said TVF&R has plans to hold a community open house, but no date has been announced.

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